The Book of Acts, written by Luke, a Greek convert to Christ as well as an adept historian and much-loved doctor, may at first seem to be just an interesting journal documenting the work of those first century apostles.
It is much more than that. Quite simply, the Book of Acts is a testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, it’s story is ongoing. Written as a letter some 2000 years ago, Acts give us amazing insights into those apostolic times, introduced with the ascension of Jesus to heaven and the beginning of the church era with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
Faithful men and women were suddenly transformed and empowered from on High. They boldly proclaimed their faith in different languages. The sick were healed. Thousands were baptised. And, deceitful intent revealed. Their new hope and resulting message simply centred on Christ. Thus dawned the church era as we understand it.
The first time, however, where we encounter the work of the Holy Spirit in the scriptures is in the opening verses of Genesis. We read in Genesis chapter 1 and verse 2 that the “Spirit of God was moving…”
Something powerful happened at creation, resulting in all we know and experience today! Out of that which is not visible, by the power and word of God, time, matter and space were brought into existence. “In the beginning [time] God created the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]” (Genesis 1:1).
Central to creation was the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout the scriptures we gain additional glimpses of the Holy Spirit in the anointing and equipping of faithful people throughout history, especially in the priests and kingly leadership of ancient Israel. One of Israel’s greatest leaders, King David, at a time of sore repentance and reconciliation, cried out in prayer, “Take not your Holy Spirit from me!” (Psalm 51:11)
Confronted by his shortcomings against the Holiness of God, at that moment David knew what mattered most. From that point onwards, we see a man further shaped into the righteousness and heart of God.
Perhaps the most intriguing account of the Holy Spirit was in the extraordinary announcement made by the angel Gabriel to the young Jewish woman Mary. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Joseph, her betrothed, was similarly told the same: “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)
Thus, the Holy Spirit, introduced to us at creation and existing outside of time, space and matter, entered the created and earthly (our domain framed by time, space and matter), and in the birth of Jesus Christ we witness the two natures of divine and human united. In Christ alone we find heaven and earth intersecting!
No wonder Jesus during his ministry often repeated, “The Kingdom of God is near!” And therein lies our hope—in Jesus—and via the transformational journey we experience today. It is this very Holy Spirit, given to those who believe, upon repentance and baptism, that begins in earnest the work of the Kingdom of God, that is, the daily forming of Christ in us.
The apostle Paul expressed his desire for the Holy Spirit’s work in his letter to the faithful in Galatia, when he penned, “until Christ is formed in you!” (Galatians 4:19)
The Holy Spirit illuminates, guides, leads, comforts, and teaches. The Holy Spirit also regenerates, prompts, discerns and empowers. Thus, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s good work as the “Master Potter” is being wrought in each of our lives. As a result, the gifts, talents and resources He’s given us are not for our own glory. Rather, in the context of living this dynamic within Church community, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the benefit of everyone.
The work of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts (chapter 10) perhaps illustrates no better than elsewhere God’s reconciling work between heaven and earth as experienced in the lives of Peter and Cornelius. Peter was a Jew, and Cornelius a Roman, regarded by the Jews as an “unclean” Gentile and therefore treated with contempt. Thus, the two contemporaries lived in a society that regarded them as totally irreconcilable; one represented the promises of God to His people, the other those excluded on the outside.
Then, both separately experienced a vision from God. Both initially were perplexed, but expectant. When they met, Cornelius was overwhelmed, but Peter instantly elevated him as his own. Just like heaven and earth intersecting and uniting in Jesus because of the Holy Spirit, the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit brought these two men, although regarded as opposites in their society, not only to meet, but also embrace each other as brothers.
Where before there was division, now there was peace. Prior to Christ coming, a vast chasm caused by evil and sin existed between heaven and earth. But Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit and formed in Mary’s womb, set in motion the bridging of that chasm.
That which was beyond time, space and matter, entered in a visible way—the express image of the Father as seen and witnessed in Jesus Christ. Thus in Jesus and Jesus alone, we are reconciled to our Heavenly Father.
The power and personal presence of God via the Holy Spirit not only reconciles us to God but also, importantly, to each other. The forming and gifting of the Holy Spirit then empowers and equips us in the context of community—the body of Christ.
The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to form in us the very image and stature of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For all humanity, this was typified in Peter and Cornelius’ experience. The irreconcilable became reconciled. The broken became healed. And the Kingdom of God established in the hearts of men. In the words of scripture, we thus become “a new creation”. To this Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
To be Spirit-formed is to be part of the ongoing work of creation. Without the Holy Spirit, we’re subject to sin, decay and death. But to live in the Spirit, as scripture says, is life and joy. May the good work of the Holy Spirit continue to transform our lives until that day of resurrection and glory, for which all of creation yearns.
And although our names are written in the “Book of Life”, the account as told in the Book of Acts, at that day of glory, will also have written our story of being Spirit-formed and reconciled to God and to each other into its final chapter.
By John Klassek